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Burning the books : a history of the deliberate destruction of knowledge  Cover Image Book Book

Burning the books : a history of the deliberate destruction of knowledge / Richard Ovenden.

Ovenden, Richard, (author.).


Opening with the notorious bonfires of "un-German" and Jewish literature in 1933 that offered such a clear signal of Nazi intentions, Burning the Books takes us on a 3000-year journey through the destruction of knowledge and the fight against all the odds to preserve it. Richard Ovenden, director of the world-famous Bodleian Library, explains how attacks on libraries and archives have been a feature of history since ancient times but have increased in frequency and intensity during the modern era. Libraries are far more than stores of literature, through preserving the legal documents such as Magna Carta and records of citizenship, they also support the rule of law and the rights of citizens. Today, the knowledge they hold on behalf of society is under attack as never before. In this fascinating book, he explores everything from what really happened to the Great Library of Alexandria to the Windrush papers, from Donald Trump's deleting embarrassing tweets to John Murray's burning of Byron's memoirs in the name of censorship. At once a powerful history of civilisation and a manifesto for the vital importance of physical libraries in our increasingly digital age, Burning the Books is also a very human story animated by an unlikely cast of adventurers, self-taught archaeologists, poets, freedom-fighters; and, of course, librarians and the heroic lengths they will go to preserve and rescue knowledge, ensuring that civilization survives. From the rediscovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the desert, hidden from the Romans and lost for almost 2000 years to the medieval manuscript that inspired William Morris, the knowledge of the past still has so many valuable lessons to teach us and we ignore it at our peril.

Record details

  • ISBN: 9780674241206
  • ISBN: 0674241207
  • Physical Description: 308 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
  • Edition: First Harvard University Press edition.
  • Publisher: Cambridge, Massachusetts : The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2020.

Content descriptions

Bibliography, etc. Note:
Includes bibliographical references (pages 263-290) and index.
Formatted Contents Note:
Cracked clay under the mounds -- A pyre and papyrus -- When books were dog cheap -- An ark to save learning -- Spoil of the conqueror -- How to disobey Kafka -- The twice-burned library -- The paper brigade -- To be burned unread -- Sarajevo Mon Amour -- Flames of empire -- An obsession with archives -- The digital deluge -- Paradise lost? -- Coda: Why we will always need libraries and archives.
Subject: Censorship > History.
Libraries > Destruction and pillage > History > 20th century.
Libraries > Destruction and pillage > History > 21st century.
Book burning > History > 20th century.
Book burning > History > 21st century.
Archives > History.
Cultural property > Protection.
Information science > Sociological aspects.
Books > Social aspects > History.
Libraries > Social aspects.
Archives > Social aspects.
Book burning.
Cultural property > Protection.
Information science > Sociological aspects.
Libraries > Destruction and pillage.
Libraries > Social aspects.
Genre: History.

Available copies

  • 1 of 1 copy available at Homer Library. (Show)
  • 1 of 1 copy available at Homer Library System. (Show)
  • 1 of 1 copy available at Homer Public Library.


  • 0 current holds with 1 total copy.
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Location Call Number / Copy Notes Barcode Shelving Location Status Due Date
Homer Public Library 363.3109 OVE (Text) 000159388 Nonfiction Available -

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